The Gospel as Message
The Importance of Words
God has made a covenant with us using words. The words are grouped together to form a logical message. In this study, the message is the Gospel. Visualize it like this:
Logical Grouping of Words
Say it with me. You know John 1:1. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Before we move to verse 14 with the word becoming flesh, let’s take a journey back into the Jewish heritage of the word. Let’s start with Genesis and the first, “In the beginning.” This is the first time God speaks.
With the expression “in the beginning,” John is connecting his final word (Hebrews 1:2) with creation as the demonstration of God’s power and redemption. (1) Next, Genesis 3:14 records God speaking condemnation of the devil and humanity for their part in creating disunity in God’s organized universe. The history moves with God speaking to Noah about the condition of the world (Genesis 6:13). After the flood, God speaks again. This time, it is offering the gracious covenant of the rainbow. The flow of history in Genesis moves to the attempt at human unity to build a tower to reach God. God speaks, and the result is a change of location and languages that creates culture. Did you catch the downward flow?
Figure 5: Downward Spiral in Genesis 1-11
Chaos to order in creation
Disunity between God and man with the transgression of Adam
Judgment of the world by the flood
Human attempt at unity with the building of the Tower of Babel
Disharmony among humanity with the introduction of dividing cultures
However, all is not lost. Once again, God steps into human history and speaks. “Go!” From this, Abraham is called to plant the seed of a new culture. This is the new humanity that is formed “in Christ,” the word made flesh. “God, after He spoke long ago … has finally spoken to us in his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2). No lovelier words could he speak — Jesus.
When John wrote this message of hope when the word became flesh, he used the Greek term logos. The term has a very rich history that begins with Plato. While Plato will consider nous (this is the Greek word for mind) as the human connection to the divine, he will ultimately associate logos with the idea of divinity. This will be further developed by the Hellenized Jew, Pliny. It is within the Jewish heritage that the concept of the logos will come to full maturity as understood by John. Please refer to Appendix 3 for the use of this term in the Gospels as the logic of God. The word implies that there is a reasonable context to it and that it is ultimately connected with truth.
Faith Comes from Hearing
Related to the term logos is another Greek word that we find in a passage that is pertinent to our study. Please consider Paul’s statement in Romans 10:17. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the message (2) of Christ.” In Paul and later writings, Jesus’ words in the Gospels was equal to God’s word in Old Testament prophesy (Romans 1:2–4). This is evidenced in the community life of the early church in that some of the New Testament manuscripts have “word of Christ” and others have “word of God.” (3) For these Christians, there was no difference between these expressions. Additionally, Jesus’ words carried the same authority.
This is taken from chapter three, The Gospel as Message, from my book Non-Negotiable: Focusing on the Essentials of the Faith. The vision of that chapter is to understand the Gospel from a historical perspective. The mission is to examine the Gospel as message. It explores the content of the Gospel to determine what makes it good news. The goal is to discover in the Gospel God’s interaction in the human situation, reclaiming a distracted and alienated humanity. This ministry is committed to helping the reader understand that when talking about Jesus in the Gospel, they must be convicted “something had actually happened!” The great Passion of Christ is set firmly in historical context. Order your copy today to study this great theme!
(1) Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford: University Press, 2011), 157.
(2) The word rhama means “a minimal unit of discourse, often a single word—‘word, saying” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 389.)
(3) O. Betz, “Rhēma,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 1122.
* This page is an excerpt from is my book Non-Negotiable: Focusing on the Essentials of the Faith. The book goes into more detail on many of these issues.
Last update 6 September 2015